The Academy faces the same problem every single year–it relies on big TV audiences to pay for its extravagant awards ceremonies, but thanks to declining TV viewership and unexciting awards ceremonies, ratings keep sinking and money keeps dropping. But everything it does fails.
Case in point, increasing the Best Picture nominees from five to ten (then ten to “variable from 6-9”). It was done to increase the number of blockbusters and big movies that might be nominated and excite more people to watch. And it worked for a few years… But by 2014, it had reverted to almost exclusively the same indie arthouse movies as before, just more of them now.
And in 2018, they went into a realm that literally nobody liked–they proposed the Academy Award for Achievement in Popular Film. That’s right, an Oscar exclusively for blockbuster or high-grossing films. Instead of maybe trying to reinvent the studio politics of Awards Season and get voters to embrace movies other than the ones produced by the guys who throw the best film festival parties, they just conceded that nothing will ever change and giving a consolation pity award instead.
It’s extremely silly.
The proposed award was almost immediately rescinded due to major backlash, especially when that year’s biggest “award-worthy” blockbusters included Black Panther and Crazy Rich Asians, and excluding them would have had… bad optics, to say the least. Categorizing high-grossing movies differently is stupid at best and outright toxic at worst.
But… when you think about it, Crazy Rich Asians was NOT nominated for any awards, in the end, because the more traditional “award-worthy” movies came out in the fall like always to supplant the narrative. 2018 was a historically horrible year for Oscar movies, to the point like a funny-but-unremarkable movie like Green Book could take the prize… Crazy Rich Asians wasn’t nominated for anything, and yet Vice and Bohemian Rhapsody WERE.
The 2010s are littered with huge soon-to-be-classics that got essentially no Oscar attention thanks to coming out before October, or thanks to being blockbusters. Where was the love for Interstellar? Logan? Hereditary? Okja? I distinctly recall Blade Runner 2049 being a mega awards contender right up until it bombed at the box office… despite making considerably more than seven of the nine Best Picture nominees that year!
And how likely is it that this will repeat verbatim in 2019 as well? Does anyone really see Knives Out or Queen & Slim getting any Oscar nominations? For as acclaimed as movies like Ad Astra, Hustlers, Late Night, and John Wick 3 have been, how many Oscar nominations will they receive combined? Two, maybe?
It’s a cycle that isn’t really breakable except by changing the culture for Academy voters to vote outside the same tired biopics and obscure indie dramas all released precisely between the last week of September and the first week of December.
Not really breakable… except by adding more awards, and not ones as idiotic as the Popular Film one. We could easily add a Best Ensemble award for large casts of great actors. We could have awards for stuntwork, motion capture/puppetry/voice work performances… hell, even something like Best Poster could be a miracle worker in giving respect to the people who deserve it and increasing ratings thanks to more non-arthouse movies being included.
But instead they are just really intent on giving live performances of all the Best Original Song nominees instead… Sigh